KAM Re-opens African Art Exhibit

The African Art Gallery at the Krannert Museum reopened in spectacular fashion on October 11. We present a major feature story here on this exciting development on our campus.

The resurgence of this exhibit was the product of a major renovation carried out in partnership with the New York-based architectural firm, Rice and Lipka.  The exhibit, housed in a setting that includes new flooring, display cases and lighting features 67 works which range from contemporary  to ancient.

In addition, four new major pieces have been added, complemented by items on loan from the Smithsonian, the Spurlock and UIUC and museums at the Universities of Wisconsin and Iowa.

Habari asked KAM curator Allyson Purpura about the importance of reinstalling the museum's African gallery. "It's important that we make KAM's African collection gallery a more dynamic resource for teaching, research and learning for students, faculty and communities in the wider C-U area."

A particularly new twist to the museum has been the addition of five new iPads mounted in different sections of the gallery. Each has a menu of videos which include interviews with artists and narrative vignettes.

Purpura hopes that "the new thematic layout and iPad videos will help visitors see these objects not only as visually compelling works of art in their own right, but also as objects of encounter--objects that 'tell' stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught global histories through which they have journeyed."

Below we present some of the highlights of the reopening.

  1. A Centerpiece of the exhibit was Egúngún Power Concealed. Here is a description of this remarkable portion of the exhibit:

Spanning the West African nations of Benin and Nigeria, Egúngún are physical manifestations of Yorùbá and Fon that provide blessings, warnings, and counsel to the communities in which they once lived. In fall semester 2012, KAM organized the focus exhibition Egúngún!: Power Concealed, which featured a lavishly sequined, 16-paneled full-body Egúngún ensemble and undergarments from Ouidah, Benin. U of I doctoral candidate in anthropology Timothy Landry, who had recently returned from conducting fieldwork on Egúngún, religious secrecy and heritage tourism in Ouidah, guest curated the exhibition, which was enlivened by videos of Egúngún performances filmed by Javier López Piñón, Roger Manley, and Peter Friedman.


2. OCTOBER 25: The Arts of Africa GALLERY CONVERSATION, “Creating Community Through African Art.”

In the spirit of transforming the Encounters gallery space into a public forum, KAM curator Allyson Purpura moderated a gallery conversation entitled “Creating Community Through African Art” on October 25. Invited speakers in the conversation were Mabinty Tarawallie (masters student in social work--seen in photo at left ), Anne Lutomia (doctoral student in Education) and Sam Smith (events director at KCPA and co-founder of the WAS:IS Wiley African Studies International Span Engagement Project--seen in photo at left below). The goal of the conversation, which was inspired by the speakers themselves, was to use African art to talk about perceptions and experiences of difference and identity among African, first-generation African and African-American communities living in the Urbana-Champaign area.











3. KAM-WAM children’s drawings of African and Egungun galleries:

The new African gallery and Egúngún exhibition proved to be favorite destinations for many local public school children who visited the museum during KAM-WAM--Krannert Art Museum's Week at the Museum, launched by KAM education director, Anne Sautman. To read a newspaper article which includes some of the students' comments on their visit (“better than recess” said one!) click on the link:


4. Les Vainqueurs, a band led by Lebon Mikandu and with members from central, east, and west Africa, entertained the crowd at the opening on October 11 and did a fully fledged performance again on December 7. They are shown in full flower below. Who says a museum can’t rock?








5. Below is a collection of photos from the exhibit. We encourage everyone to visit!!